Go to the Ant

Years ago, visiting a friend’s home, I stood in the bathroom doorway while she hastily cleaned the toilet for my visit. She apologetically explained that although she had three boys (all older than my kids), she struggled with the amount of time it took to teach them basic household chores, so she ended up doing them herself. That was a significant event for my parental development. I decided I didn’t want to be the one doing all of the household work—not necessarily for my own selfish gain (but, let’s face it: who wants to be the only one caring for the home?!?), but most importantly for the necessary gain of my children. I began to wonder what these boys’ wives would think one day when their husbands didn’t know how to help around the house because their mother didn’t take the time to teach them.

As time progressed, I learned from experience exactly why she didn’t take that time: it’s painstaking drudgery to teach kids to work hard. Everything within us (our fleshly selves) wants to sit this one out and let someone else take care of it. We want to get away with the least amount of work possible without missing any of the benefits.

But God doesn’t call us to a life of laziness. On the contrary, He calls us to diligent work. Judy Rogers has written a fabulous song entitled “Go to the Ant” (you can listen to it here) that’s based off of Proverbs 6:6-11. I love the entire CD, but this song in particular is one I’ll still sing to my kids as I’m encouraging them to do the work God has called them to. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 4:2, “…it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.” God has generously given us homes to tend to; it is our responsibility to care for them and to teach our kids to do the same.

Tired

I feel the need to admit something. As Pastor Knight says, “Confession is good for the soul”—right? Although confession or admission don’t usually feel good, I believe there’s truth in that statement. If you want think about what God’s Word would say about it, 1 John 1:9 is a good place to turn: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This is good news for my soul, because the clean slate of God’s forgiveness and cleansing is exactly what my soul needs to start over!

So, my admission: I’m tired. I’m tired of the struggle. I’m tired of the stress and pressures. I’m tired of feeling like life hours are being traded for money, simply to try to stay “in the black.” I’m tired of feeling squeezed, the emotional pitfalls that come, and the dark clouds that stay. Most of all, though, I’m tired of my being tired. Where is my joy in this journey?

There are moments or days when the heaviness of our trials doesn’t bother me so much, and I’m grateful at those times for God’s abundant provision, because I get to experience regularly the promise made to us in Philippians 4:19—“…my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

Unfortunately, I don’t always bask in gratitude as I consider the road we’re on. In fact, as I was very recently watching those dark (emotional) clouds swirling overheard, God directed me to another starting over verse—“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor.5:17). This is another promise to hold on to as well as a reminder that my life is no longer to be about worldly things anyway: now, because I was made new, all that I live for is to be about spiritual things—namely, God’s glory!

As I concern myself with who God is, what He has done, and what He requires, I can trust His competent and compassionate care for my family. And because I’m a new creature, I don’t need to worry myself with the tiresome trials or stressful struggles of this world; my spiritual eyes can look to Jesus, who will provide.

Striving for Wisdom as You Work

Oh, how easy it is to get distracted by mounting bills, shrinking paychecks, the never-ending list of needs, and the fear about whether the amount in your checking account will last until the next payday! How do we balance it all? There are some truths we need to keep in mind when we think about God’s provision of our financial needs. First, God created work for mankind before Adam chose sin; therefore, work is good and right and doing our tasks to God’s glory (Col.3:23) honors Him. Second, God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Ps.50:10)—it all belongs to Him and He gives as He chooses to whom He chooses. Third, God expects that we strive to fulfill our part in the work-provision equation (2 Thess.3:10).

But we need to take a step back in order to understand what this has to do with striving for wisdom as you work.

Find your goal in God. We have to always start here. Why are you doing what you’re doing? What is it that you’re working for? If we’ve gotten off track and are headed toward a lesser (or wrong!) goal, wisdom will not be found. We must strive in our desire to attain Christlikeness; in our love for God’s Word; and in our single-minded focus on that one, all-consuming goal: the knowledge of God. Knowing that God created work and that He will be honored as you work for His glory will help you keep your eye on the right goal.

Find pleasure in your treasures. God didn’t give us five senses and expect that we reject the pleasure they bring. He didn’t give us the love and warmth of family and friends, only to require that we remain cold and untouched. No, He chose to provide pleasure for us as we walk with Him on this earth. Do you treasure your family? There is pleasure to be found there! Of course, when we treasure Jesus, the ultimate pleasure is found in Him! And, ultimately, it all belongs to God, so give thanks to Him and choose a daily attitude of gratitude.

Find joy in the journey. Yes, even in the trials, there is joy to be found. Remember, Jesus hasn’t changed—He’s the same today as He was during your recent time of relative ease. The journey He has carved out for you includes your continuing to strive. So don’t give up and don’t give in. When we stand strong, by His grace, in our faith, our eyes remain focused on truth—His truth. And it is always in His truth and by His Spirit that we find wisdom.

It’s Been Paid in Full

Just when we think that we’ll finally be able to pay off that credit card, or take care of the outstanding maintenance issues with the car, or reorganize the chaotic closet upstairs, or…… (we could fill in the blank with a hundred things, couldn’t we?), God makes it clear He has something else planned. It’s like He’s telling us to start over with our plans…our hopes…our desires. And to be really honest, when we’re in this place, it’s hard to feel the love of God for us. We hear the lies of the world and of Satan whispering in our ears, “If God really loved you, wouldn’t He want you to have the means to take care of that? Well, then, you must have been mistaken. He must not love you as much as you think He does.”

But the love of God isn’t felt in the fullness of your bank account. In fact, the amount in your bank account has nothing to do with how much God loves you, nor has it any relevance upon how well He is caring for you. And He is caring for you. Even as you struggle with not being able to see how you’re going to pay your bills this week or purchase groceries next week, God is caring for you. And what He might be telling you is that it’s time to start over.

It’s time to start over with your priorities. Is it wrong to want to pay off debt or maintain the material items we own or spend money on reorganizing? Not necessarily; but is that what you want most? If so, you need to start over.

It’s time to start over with your goals. Saving for the future isn’t foolish, but if it’s more important than living spiritually strong in the here and now, it’s time to start over.

It’s time to start over with your love. We go to church week in and week out, worshiping God as much as we can at that moment, but because of all of the other lesser things upon which we pour out our love, we have so little to give to Him. Our only hope is to start over.

Starting over begins with letting go. We’ve been trying to be in control when we’re really not. But God is! And He’s doing a fabulous job taking care of us and our needs!

Once we let go of control, we are freed to surrender again to God, whose will may not include a six-figure income for us; but it does include our knowing Him, glorifying Him, and enjoying Him forever—something that isn’t paid for from our bank account because, praise Him, it’s been paid in full!